What we do
Burundi, a small but densely populated country in the heart of Africa, has witnessed decades of violent civil conflict between ethnic groups since its independence from Belgium in 1962. Peace returned in 2005, but hopes for the development of a thriving multi-party democracy were dashed after contested elections in 2015 and an attempted coup d’état.
Elections and referendums in the years since been marred by violence, intimidation, and accusations of fraud, with distrust between politicians and political parties entrenched across society. Therefore working to alleviate this distrust, fostering collaboration and dialogue across party lines, and encouraging a future generation of leaders are key aims of NIMD’s work.
Working with partner organization the Burundi Leadership Training Program (BLTP) since 2008, NIMD has run a numbers of programmes aimed at encouraging dialogue, developing skills, promoting inclusivity, and strengthening the democratic infrastructure in Burundi. While our most recent programme in Burundi came to an end in 2022, NIMD is currently working to secure funding for a new programme in 2023.
Since starting our programming in Burundi in 2008, promoting dialogue between historically polarized political parties has been central to NIMD’s work. NIMD established a number of dialogue platforms for national politicians across the ideological spectrum, and incremental progress was being made in fostering channels for interparty and multiparty dialogue.
However, a shifting political climate and restrictions on the activities of political parties in 2018 meant NIMD’s multiparty dialogue sessions at the national level faced a setback, with limited participation from the ruling party. Assessing and responding to such shifts, NIMD moved its focus to the regional and local level, ensuring the continuation of its efforts to cultivate an environment for political parties that will in the long term be conducive for peaceful, inclusive and democratic elections.
In all its activities in Burundi, NIMD adheres to its principles of inclusivity and diversity and promotes the participation of women. NIMD and BLTP organized meetings specifically for women from different political parties, in which participants discussed the opportunities and challenges facing women in politics and formulate strategies to improve participation.
Many of the female politicians developed action plans for increasing women’s participation, with each participating party designating a national consultant to assist with finalizing and implementing the plans.
Supporting and developing the skills and knowledge of young politicians in Burundi has always been a key focus of NIMD’s work. As part of the “Political Leaders for the Future of Burundi” project, we launched a Youth LAB in 2018, which encourages dialogue between young people of all political backgrounds and creates a link between them and the political parties.
As part of the Youth LAB, more than 500 young people completed training sessions on themes including non-violent communication, lobbying and advocacy, entrepreneurship, and democracy and citizenship,
In 2020, Representatives from the Youth LAB formed a lobby group to advocate for peaceful, democratic and inclusive elections, as well as greater youth participation across all political parties.
From 2011 to 2018, NIMD and BLTP ran Democracy Schools across Burundi, with training in democratic values and skills reaching right to the level of the local community in eight of Burundi’s eighteen provinces. Hundreds of young activists, civil servants, police officers, and party members passed through the doors of NIMD’s Democracy Schools in Burundi, almost a third of whom were women.
NIMD’s efforts to cultivate an environment conducive for peaceful, inclusive and democratic elections has included holding workshops in collaboration with BLTP, encouraging debate and discussion about the benefits of peaceful cohabitation between parties.
Ahead of contentious 2020 elections, these workshops focussed on alleviating political violence, with trainers providing positive examples of methods to peacefully resolve disputes at all levels of society.